Episcopal Diocese of Rochester
Joy in Christ, a way of life

Bishop's Writing / Enews November 2023


Dear Friends in Christ:

I want to begin this Enews letter by offering my thanks to you for a solid effort at our Annual Convention. Participation was strong, and we made a number of important decisions. Most impressive, perhaps, was the discussion we had about a resolution commending the use of Palestinian guides when visiting the Holy Land. Given that the conversation took place in the midst of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, I think our ability to hold a respectful conversation speaks well of us. Some folks have mentioned that it was the first serious discussion of a contemporary issue at the Convention in some time. Good for us! I hope we can continue to grow in our ability to differ in love.

The Convention made decisions that brought the lives of two parishes, St Stephen’s, Rochester, and Trinity, Canaseraga, to a conclusion. The diocese is working with both parishes to see that sacred objects and church records are preserved and to oversee the care of the buildings. We have hope for community use of both properties. The assets remaining from both will be used for ministry in their locales. Services of deconsecration will be held in the future after public notice to the diocese. Convention also determined to change the status of St John’s, Sodus, from a parish to a mission in order to facilitate its ability to sustain important ministries to the community. All three parishes made presentations prior to the Convention’s votes, and the Chaplain offered prayers of thanksgiving and comfort. My thanks to the representatives of all three churches and to the Rev. Virginia Mazzarella, our Chaplain.

As a result of Convention budget decisions, we will soon see changes in diocesan staffing as we prepare to transition to a new bishop. The Rev. Andrea Stridiron has completed her term as Deacon Coordinator, and I have decided not to continue the position. My thanks to Andrea for her faithful service over several years. I am grateful. I will be meeting with the Deacon Community in the near future to talk about how we can strengthen the quality of community life for our deacons.

The Rev. Debs Duguid-May has served as Discernment Officer for the past several years. Debs has worked with the Commission on Ministry in guiding postulants and candidates through the ordination process. She has formed local ordination discernment committees and has worked with clergy new to the diocese in creating Circles of Support. Circles of Support are small groups that help the new priest reflect on his or her developing ministry. Debs’ term will end in December, and I have made the decision not to continue the position. Her work will be shared by the Commission on Ministry, and by the Rev. Virginia Tyler Smith in her work as Transition Officer. When I first came to the diocese, Debs was a font of information about who was in the ordination process and how new clergy were doing. I am deeply grateful for her help and her kindness.

The diocesan budget also funded a new position, Regional Priest-in-Charge, a half-time position intended to provide pastoral oversight for congregations that have been unable to call a resident priest. The Regional PiC means to provide support and care for congregations while the diocese continues to seek a resident priest. I’m happy to announce that I’ve invited the Rev. Virginia Tyler Smith to serve in this position, and she has accepted. I’m also happy to tell you that she has already begun working with the three parishes of Allegany County: Christ Church, Cuba; St John’s, Wellsville; and St Paul’s, Angelica. These three churches have agreed to join us in our experiment and to help us work out the kinks. I’m grateful for their courage and their enthusiasm. I am hopeful we will learn things that can be applied in other congregations of the diocese.

As you read this, the Discernment and Nominating Committee is in conversation with the Standing Committee about the slate of nominees for the IX Bishop of Rochester. The Standing Committee will release the slate to the diocese shortly along with procedures and forms for Nomination by Petition. I urge you to be alert for these releases and to give them your full attention. This is an exciting time for our diocese, and we will do our best if all of us participate.

As we enter Advent and the season of expectation, change is all around us. It’s clear that people are not content with continuing things as they are, but want something new. All over the globe people are restive and looking for new opportunities and new ways to live together. We in the church are experiencing this reality as the ways we’ve worked for decades seem no longer to produce the expected results. It is abundantly clear that we will have to change, too. The reshaping of the church at the parish level and the transition to our next bishop are symptoms of this underlying change. It’s frightening, at times, but also exciting. I hope we can embrace this change together, holding one another in prayer, and working together for one another’s good. We are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, for Christ to come and to come again. As dark as the world may seem at times, we are waiting in darkness for the Light. May we be open to the promptings of the Spirit for new life.